Former Ghost Ship master tenant may be ordered to pay millions in restitution

Former Ghost Ship warehouse master tenant Derick Almena may be ordered to pay at least $10 million in restitution, following a plea deal and sentencing in the case of the deadly 2016 fire that killed 36 people.

Judge Trina Thompson held a restitution hearing Friday discussing costs and how to make the victims’ families whole. After some debate and discussion, Thompson indicated a final ruling won't be issued until a July 23 hearing.

"Victims’ families are entitled to all of their out of pocket loss," Thompson said. "And they want clarity."

Prosecutors requested more than $11 million, according to court documents but defense attorneys argued that a lack of supporting documentation demonstrated restitution should not exceed roughly $1.5 million.

"Everyone knows my client is indigent," Almena’s lawyer Tony Serra said. "But the law requires restitution, so there will be restitution."

The original request includes approximately $4 million in financial support to families, nearly $5 million for civil attorneys’ fees, and at least a million more to cover other victims’ families’ expenses.

Almena spoke with KTVU following the hearing and said he wants to pay back what he owes.

"I’m not PG&E and I’m not the city, I’m just me right now," Almena said. "I’m going to do everything I can for the rest of my life to pay back what I can." 

As part of his plea deal, Almena was ordered to pay $181,000 for funeral expenses and counseling.

Families and lawyers will have a couple of months to file repayment requests, bills and supporting documents with the court for consideration.

Almena pleaded guilty in January to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for his role in the fire that killed 36 people during a party and fire in December 2016.

"I’m incredibly sorry for what happened," Almena said Friday. "And I’ll live my life with this."

Last month, a judge accepted a plea deal for Almena that called for him to serve 12 years in prison. But based on time served, the judge agreed to allow him to spend a year and a half in confinement at home instead.

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @BrooksKTVU